Listen to the sermon from Sunday, October 25, 2015 titled “Let Me See Again” by Rev. Stephanie Cooper.
This past weekend, Ashley and I dove head-first into all of the fall activities. We went out to a fall festival where we picked out pumpkins, and we carved our pumpkins while we drank apple cider and spent our evenings watching Halloween movies. Now– Neither of us find great pleasure in those really scary movies.. or the unnecessarily gory movies. But a good suspenseful movie is right up our ally. Something to get the nerves going just a little bit.
So we sat back and settled in to watch “Woman in Black” with HARRY POTTER—what’s that guys name? I’m just kidding, I looked it up and I know its Daniel Radcliff…
So for those of you that have not wasted 90 minutes on this movie…let me do a favor. Don’t.
After the 90 minutes of watching extremely poorly plotted movie, I thought, well I can’t get that 90 minutes back. But it was more than that—how do people get away with such poorly plotted movies?
And on top of that- characters were barely developed, motives were never made clear, the list goes on and on. In fact, so bad and I was so baffled by the lack of care for detail that I woke up the next morning still frustrated, and I needed to do some research. I thought the movie had been based on a book and, in fact, it had been.
So instead of going to my local library, I went to the trusty Wikipedia to look up the plot. And wouldn’t you know….. this poor excuse for a movie was merely a shadow version of a book with dare I say, a plot and characters.
This movie was at best a cloudy version of what once was. And most book lovers will always argue that book-turned-movies never fully communicate what is written in the original. Movies never flesh out the characters enough, leave important details out… they are always a shadow. A clouded up window into the soul of the book.
And sometimes, we find that happens in our lives. Sometimes, when we look back on what was, when we look back on who we once were, dreams we once had, passion that once drove us, and it all looks so cloudy from where we stand. We wake up one day and look back to where we once were and we feel like we lost sight that we once had. We can see through the clouded window a passion or desire that once lived on our sleeve… but now we have a mere glimpse of it, although it may still live somewhere deep down inside of us. But sometimes we find ourselves in a life where our passion is a mere shadow of something that we once knew.
Sometimes, it is as if the paths of our lives get overgrown. Sometimes we look back at the path that once felt so familiar and realize that we have allowed it to become overgrown with thistles and thorns. It has become a mere shadow of the vibrant, well-used trail that it once was. We remember a time when we would stroll the path and meander its wild and free walls. But as we look up, remembering, we encounter a path that has been untamed, un-cared for, unkept and impassable.
How often do we look up from our busy lives to find that the way- the path to God– that walk with God– has become overgrown by weeds and thorns.
In our gospel passage today, we come across another story of a blind man begging for Jesus to come to him and heal him. You may recall, or maybe not, but just a couple of chapters before this story in the gospel of Mark, we come across another blind beggar, in Bethsaida. In a very similar fashion, an encounter with Jesus brings sight to the blind.
Lucky for Bartimeaus, however, because the first blind guy who asks to be healed is the one who gets the muddy saliva mixture rubbed into his eyes. And Bart, can I call him Bart?, Bart on the other hand is healed by his faith.
Now, of course in antiquity, it is common for people with any sort of disability to be shunned and often they found themselves on the sides of the streets begging to get by. And we find Bart in our story, not only begging on the streets, but he is on the road on the way out of town.
For the gospel says: Jesus and his disciples spent some time in Jericho. And as Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a crowd of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, was sitting alongside the road.
So shunned that they push him outside of the city on the way out of town. And as Jesus passes by he began to cry out, saying, “Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
Now- the beauty or perhaps mere contradiction of this story is that- while Bartimeaus is asking for his physical blindness to be healed it appears that everyone else around him suffers from a blindness of the soul. Jesus’ disciples try to quiet down the ruckus of this beggar on the street as to not bother Jesus.
They think that they’re in the right because they’re in—they’re in the inner circle. But those who think they’re doing it right in this story—are the ones who actually suffer from blindness.
Bartimaeus cries out Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And the disciples try to shut him up. And instead of being squelched, Bart cries all the louder “Son of David Have mercy on me.” And Jesus stops. Asks for Bart to be brought to him and says to Bart “What do you want me to do for you.”
Jesus doesn’t presume to know what we need. Nor is forceful his ideas of healing, saving, and wholeness. Jesus doesn’t force his idea of being healed and whole on Bart or on us… for… any cleaned-up packaged idea of God’s radical love and grace is a mere human cardboard construction of God’s love. No, Jesus does not force anything on our Bart, but he asks Bart, “what do YOU want me to do?”
And Bart says, “Teacher. I want to see again.”
And Jesus replies, “Go now- your faith has made you well.”
And Bart follows Jesus along the way.
Now, I think what makes this story so interesting is that just two chapters earlier we have that other story that is so very similar. Mark, who likes to get to the point… he is the gospel writer with the shortest Jesus narrative, Mark takes the time and energy to expound on yet another healing of the blind story. And we can get into the nuances as to how to interpret these miracle stories and divine intervention and physical ills, but I think Mark is trying to demonstrate something larger here. I think Mark is trying to point out the blindness of the heart. Because we have these two stories of these men who are physically blind, and ALL AROUND THEM, are these people who are blind to who Jesus IS and THE WAY Jesus is on.
Because sandwiched in between these two stories of healing the blind, we have Jesus time and again, pointing out, that you just don’t get it, do you? In Chapter 8 at verse 27 Peter can say that Jesus is the Messiah but doesn’t really understand what that means… and in Chapter 9 Peter, James, and John witness the transfiguration and they try create three dwellings on the mountain and put the experience in a box… the disciples argue about who is the greatest in 9:33, Jesus says to be first, you must be last… and in chapter 10 people bring the little children to Jesus and the disciples try to send them away. Jesus is constantly having to point out to these disciples that they are doing it wrong. These disciples need to open the eyes of their heart to truly see who Jesus is, and what Jesus is about and that path that Jesus is inviting them to walk down.
So we come back to the physicality of our Bart on the side of the road, waiting to be healed by Jesus. And Jesus says “what do you want me to do for you” and Bart says “Let me see again”. And this language, these words, not only ring true for Bart’s physical state, but for these disciples and followers of Jesus who once saw the way of Jesus and were drawn to follow him on the way, but perhaps have looked up from where they were and noticed that the path that they once trod, that felt so familiar, is covered with thistles and thorns as they became concerned with who is the greatest and as they played bodyguard for Jesus.
And for centuries people have said the eye is the gateway to the soul. Matthew writes that the eye is the lamp to the body. This idea of seeing… of our eyes being directly connected to our heart- of seeing what Jesus is really about, becomes more about- not just taking the imposed blindfold off—but more about being willing to take our own hands away from our eyes to see.
We live in a world where it is a lot easier to exist with the blinders on. To not see the injustices that exists in our place and time. But Jesus is inviting us, not forcing us but inviting us to take our hands down from our eyes and to see. To clear the clouds away from our eyes to feel again that tug in our heart towards a better way. For our souls to awaken to the Spirit that is calling us to live a different way. To be about the work of love in our own daily living. Just like Bart, to be willing to have an encounter with the Holy and to be able to say- Let me see again.
Because though we may look up from our place and see that the path we once trod has become overgrown with thistles and thorns, we don’t have to accept that as our only experience. We can look up and ask Jesus- Let me see again. Let me follow you on the way.